Davao City police chief asks HRW to name cop-handlers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 April) – The city police chief here says he has yet to read the 103-page report of the Human Rights Watch on the alleged “complicity and at times direct involvement” of government officials and the police in the death squad killings.

Sr. Supt. Ramon Apolinario said he has yet to read the report launched at 10 a.m. April 7 in a Quezon City hotel. The report was uploaded in the website of  the New York-based Human Rights Watch at the same time.

Told about the report’s findings that the killers “amo” (boss or handlers) ore police officers or retired police officers, Apolinario replied, “if that is the report, then they should be naming names para imbestigahan na natin, di ba?” (so we can investigate, right?).

He said it should not only be the Davao City police “but the entire Philippine National Police should investigate this if there are really people who do this.”
He told reporters during a break from doing a security check at the bus terminal that as police chief, he will “not tolerate this kind of activity.”

In a press statement on April 7, Philippine National Police director general Jesus Versoza, ordered “all police units to intensify investigation and intelligence gathering to identify and arrest persons or groups involved in the killing of suspected criminal elements in Davao City.”Verzosa directed PNP regional director, Chief Superintendent Pedro Tango, a lawyer, to gather evidence and file charges against suspects involved in these killings.

“I expect lower unit commanders to take the cue from my instructions to their Regional Director to go hard against persons or groups behind the series of unexplained killings in Davao City, “ Verzosa said, adding, “even the most hardened criminals deserve their day in court, because they too have rights under the law that should be respected, including the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a competent court.”

Versoza was in Davao City last week, having been summoned by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) during the public inquiry on extralegal killings.

Human Rights Watch in its report titled “You Can Die Anytime: Death Squad Killings in Mindanao” “found evidence of complicity and at times direct involvement of government officials and members of the police in killings by the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS).”

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said there are no state-sponsored killings in the city. Police officials at the public inquiry also denied involvement of is personnel in the killings. 

But the Human Rights Watch report said “there is an almost complete lack of political will by the government at both local and national levels to address targeted killings and take action against the perpetrators” and that  based on “consistent, detailed, and compelling accounts from families and friends of victims, eyewitnesses of targeted killings, barangay officials, journalists,

community activists, and the ‘insiders,’ Human Rights Watch has concluded that a death

squad and lists of people targeted for killings exist in Davao City.”

“We also conclude that at least some police officers and barangay officials are either involved or complicit in death squad killings. Human Rights Watch believes that such killi
ngs continue and the perpetrators enjoy impunity largely because of the tolerance of, and in some cases, outright

support from local authorities,” it said.

Versoza said he acknowledges that human rights organizations documenting the series of alleged vigilante killings in Davao City are “well-intentioned, but, we completely disagree with their pronouncements that these cases were ‘state-sponsored,’” Verzosa said, adding that such pronouncements should be backed by evidence so that appropriate cases may be pursued and filed before the courts of law.

“A civilized society like ours does not allow and cannot allow vigilantes to roam the streets as both judge and executioner. Only the courts are vested the authority to determine guilt and appropriate punishment for criminal offenders,” he said.

“As a law enforcement agency, the PNP can only act against suspected vigilante groups if it has established probable cause, legally obtained evidence, or gathered sworn affidavits from witnesses and family of victims. Therefore, we need the support and cooperation of the citizenry, especially those who are willing to testify in court against crime suspects,” he said.

Mayor Duterte told reporters Tuesday afternoon that if the CHR and Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth “do not like what’s happening here, they better not come here anymore if they think that Davao City is a dangerous place.”

“They won’t understand me: they speak of human rights, I speak of securing the welfare of the entire city.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)